Alcohol Detox and Alcohol Detox Symptoms: What to Expect

Learn what to expect from alcohol detox aka alcohol detoxification. Includes alcohol detox symptoms and medications to treat alcohol detox symptoms.

Alcohol detoxification, also known as alcohol detox, is the abrupt cessation of drinking alcohol combined with medications used to combat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol detoxification is always done under medical supervision, either as an inpatient or outpatient. Alcohol detox may be handled at an alcohol treatment center or at a hospital.

Alcohol detoxification is typically five to seven days after the alcoholic has stopped drinking. It is during this time that the most severe withdrawal symptoms can occur and be medically dealt with. Alcohol detoxification can be deadly if done outside of medical care.

Alcohol Detoxification -Alcohol Detox Symptoms

Alcohol detox symptoms are the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. These range from mild to severe but the goal of alcohol detox is to minimize the effects of these symptoms.

Delirium tremens, also known as the DTs, is one of the most severe alcohol detox symptoms. If an alcoholic is considered at risk for delirium tremens, inpatient alcohol detoxification may be chosen to ensure proper medical intervention, as delirium tremens is fatal without alcoholism treatment in up to 35% of cases.

Alcohol detox symptoms of delirium tremens include:xv

  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Agitation
  • Uncontrollable tremors, seizures
  • Hallucination
  • Other signs of severe autonomic instability (fever, tachycardia, hypertension)

Alcohol Detoxification - Alcohol Detox Medications

The goal of alcohol detox is to minimize the alcohol detox symptoms and this is done through medication, typically benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines, often referred to as benzos, calm and sedate the alcoholic and the alcoholic's central nervous system, reducing many of the alcohol detox symptoms. Typical medications used during alcohol detoxification include:

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Last Updated: 20 June 2016

Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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